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Surprising Science

Fast food slows brain development in children

The research linking fast food to obesity is well-known, but new studies show it may be impacting early brain development in children.

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The ill-effects of fast food on our physiques is well-documented, but a new study reveals the harsh outcomes it could also have on a child’s brain chemistry and ability to learn.

Kelly Purtell led the study at Ohio State University, she spoke to Edward Malnick from the Telegraph about her results, saying:

Research has been focused on how children’s food consumption contributes to the child obesity epidemic. Our findings provide evidence that eating fast food is linked to another problem: poorer academic outcomes.

Malnick reported the results of the study, which showed kids who ate fast food had lower test scores in math, science, and reading.

Researchers took 8,544 American school children who were 10 years of age when the study began. The team measured how often they consumed fast food. Of the participants, 52 percent said they’d eaten fast food up to three times the week before, 10 percent had consumed it four to six times, and 10 percent had eaten it every day. Researchers then checked back in three years later to compare test results of those children, taking into account factors like socioeconomic status, physical activity, and how often they watched TV.

The kids that never ate fast food scored 83 points on a science test, while the children who ate it every day scored an average of 79 points. Researchers explained the discrepancy, suggesting there may be a disruption in brain development–stunting some of the children’s ability to learn. They point out that fast food is not rich in certain nutrients that helps brain growth, like iron. Its absence would slow the developmental process, and combined with sugar and fat creates a mixture that could hinder children from understanding and learning new lessons in the classroom.

Fast food is easy and cheap, and as Americans work longer hours it’s difficult to whip-up a nutritious meal every morning, noon, and night–just thinking about it makes it seem like an endurance trial. However, parents may need to evaluate their work-life balance in order to make time for healthy fixings for their kids.

Read more at Telegraph.


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